Railguns are at the moment subject to research and are being investigated for use at Ford class aircraft carrier ships. Aircraft carriers have a very short runway, which is a big disadvantage for most modern aircrafts. Making the runway any longer is not a viable option, therefore the installation of railguns is highly desirable.
Of all possible technical realizations, EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) is the most promising. It is hoped that an EMALS railgun could impart a 10g (or a little bit more) force for the duration of the runway. This coupled with the inclined bow of the aircraft carrier would be sufficient to propel the aircraft to the sky.
Another big advantage of railguns is that it saves a lot of fuel and engine life from the aircraft. The most critical moment for an aircraft from every point of view is the lift off. That puts the most strain on the engines and guzzles the most fuel per mile.
Railguns would be very beneficial for civilian air flight too. The same considerations as above hold. The runway could be made much longer than that of an aircraft carrier, but considerably shorter than nowadays' civilian runways. It prolongs the life of all aircrafts by a huge factor. It doesn't require any relevant changes in the structure of existing and future aircraft. It shortens the time of launch. It makes the launch safer. An aircraft could be launched at zero-lift angle of attack, and the end of the runway could be made a few degrees inclined to cause the lift. All the while in the runway the aircraft has accumulated the needed velocity.
It is beneficial to the military. A civilian infrastructure of railguns throughout the country would be very desirable. Sturdy rockets could be launched from such platforms with 200g, attaining velocities far out of today's reach. Rocket design would be furthermore very much simplified, bringing their cost down by a good factor.
Railguns are being successfully experimented with. There are technical problems with the loading of capacitors, nothing too hard to overcome. Need for mass application would solve all these problems and completely revolutionarize their design.
Of all these benefits, the one most relevant would be Mars settlement. Many ideas have been put forth for Mars settlement and few of them are on designer's desk. None of them really economical. Railguns can change that. A railgun a few miles long could help launch a spacecraft to low Earth orbit (LEO). The spacecraft can be made to contain humans and supplies for a few days. Therefore it would be very light. The spacecraft, its boosters and engine are launched with 10g from a railgun platform. Once out the platform the spacecraft ignites boosters and engines, and very easily makes it to LEO. At this point, other material could be launched from a railgun platform with 200g (which humans can't survive). Fuel and any sort of supplies can be catapulted this way. They all assemble in LEO. That is relatively easy nowadays. This whole process would bring the cost of sending goods to space from today's $20,000/kg to roughly $500/kg.
The most costly part of a Mars travel is getting from Earth surface to LEO. It is this one part that makes the rest of the mission a huge burden. With this taken out of the way, human Mars missions and Mars settlement would become a reality.
Comrade Frum, if there is a NASA application you must explain how these railguns will further the primary mission of helping the mooslims to feel better about themselves. Granted, mooslims would probably like any idea with "gun in it." On the other hand, as the USSA becomes a gun-free-fire-zone perhaps "high-speed-rail-velocity-redistributor" would be a title worthy of billions of dollars of guvmint backed "loans." And Mars? Unless there are votes to be
Quote:An aircraft could be launched at zero-lift angle of attack, and the end of the runway could be made a few degrees inclined to cause the lift. All the while in the runway the aircraft has accumulated the needed velocity.
There could also be a safety improvement. I can recall a number of high-profile air crashes that occurred because the plane lost power at an inopportune time during takeoff. Correct me if I'm wrong - my inference is that a railgun would not be subject to the same weakness; if the capacitors are not charges and ready to power the magnets at launch time, the launch could simply not take place. Once the potential energy needed to get the plane off the ground has been stored, there is much less that can go wrong than under self-powered takeoff. Sort of like a bullet - once it's been fired, there's little to stop it. Unless it hits something unexpectedly, of course... :(
FINALLY! I've been making the case for nailguns in space for YEARS!
Just don't have any fillings, artificial replacement joints, or metal plates in your head, leave your pacemakers at home, and everything should be just fine.
The very same energy that powered Chris Matthews' leg tingle is available to all who will surrender to it!
Can I get an Amen?